Illegal Prescription Drug Sales

December 29, 2008 7:50:06 PM PST
The annual Hmong New Year celebration is expected to draw more than one hundred thousand members of the Southeast Asian ethnic group to Fresno. Along with the variety of clothing, decorative items and food being sold, some vendors booths at the celebration look like open air pharmacies. Offering a variety of antibiotics and pain medications.Ask the questions, what are these? And you will get answers in broken English like, "to make you feel better." Ask them, "Do you need a prescription for this?" And they will insist you do not. They tell us the antibiotics like Penicillin, Tetracycline, in pills and injection vials, and pain killers like Andol, and Tramadol can be sold over the counter, since they come from Thailand. Some of the other drugs being sold are listed as treatments for Tuberculosis. But, it is against the law for anyone other than doctors or pharmacists to dispense prescription drugs in this country and there's no way of knowing if these are safe.

Fresno Pharmacist Mel Renge says there are major problems with this method of selling drugs."The first thing is the purity of the drug they're getting out there. And then, you're talking about different types of side effects. Somebody could unknowingly be allergic to penicillin and buy those for a cold or sore throat or something and end up in anaphylactic shock." He says.

In many Asian and Latin Countries drugs like these are available over the counter. Jerry Her of Fresno wasn't at the event to buy drugs, but explains why many Hmong do: "Because in our country medicine are free, penicillin are free you can go see a Dr. for free you can get medication free over the counter. But over here they say you have to see a Dr. to get a prescription to get a medication for anti-biotic. The old folks here, they are used to being in our country."

But Renge says: "In a situation like that we're talking about no controls so it's a very dangerous situation. It is against the law in this country, for sure."

We told Fresno Police about the drugs and they acted quickly, confiscating samples. Sgt. Mark Hudson, who patrols the event told us: "We took them, we're gonna do further investigation turn them over to the proper agencies that can analyze these type of substances and see where we go from there."

Vendors quickly removed the prescription medications from their counters, and police have advised event organizers to keep them away from the public.

Police will have to determine if the drugs are real before deciding whether to file charges against anyone.

Fresno Police say they are not familiar with these types of drug sales but in Los Angeles, police have a special unit which patrols swap meets and other events where the same types of drugs are frequently sold.

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